Ultimate Birding Experience: Paragliding Over San Diego

Floating above San Diego
San Diego's Torrey Pines Glider Port

Paragliding at the Torrey Pines Glider Port

Imagine standing on a high oceanfront bluff and giving yourself up to a gust of wind – being blown out over the edge of the cliff, rising on the upward thrust of a stiff onshore breeze, then soaring like a bird out over the Pacific. Imagine the exhilaration of riding an updraft with a gull, the joy of slow dancing with the wind. Paragliders do it every day at the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

For those who don’t know the difference, hang gliders fly suspended from framed fabric wings. Paragliders sit in a harness suspended below a huge non-porous nylon “wing” that looks much like a parachute.

At the Gliderport, bird wannabes can go for a 30-minute tandem flight with one of the on-site instructors (no experience required and no age limit though minors do need a parent or guardian’s permission). Your guide will outfit you in a lightweight helmet and help you into a harness – actually a soft, very padded chair – buckling straps around each leg and your waist. When you’re properly packaged, the instructor will slip into the harness just behind you and ask you to lean forward a bit while he maneuvers the voluminous nylon wing dawdling above your heads.

In an instant you’ll understand the power of nature, its raw muscle. The inflated fabric wing will shove your backward, tug you upward.

Floating above San Diego

Floating above San Diego

Just go with it. Let your feet float – a few inches off the ground, at first. Then, so quickly, so much more.  In a split second you’ll be gone. Long before there’s time to think about it, you’ll be soaring. Out over the edge of the bluff, high above the Pacific Ocean. Like an oversized gull, you’ll ride the upward thrust of the breeze that hits the Torrey Pines cliffs. The exhilaration is sudden and overwhelming.

Embrace it. Allow yourself to become that seagull. Free. Swoop down, glide higher, ride a thermal. Feel the power of your lofty multi-colored wing. Your wing. Savor the sensory simplicity of flight. Be awed by it. Love being a bird.

Cost and Other Information

  • Tandem paragliding last about 25 minutes, depending on wind conditions and costs $150. There’s a $10 discount for cash; it’s $40 for video of your flight, $15 for photos, $50 for both
  • The Gliderport also offers hang gliding tandems for $200. There’s a passenger weight limit of about 175 pounds
  • Rather sit and just watch? The Cliff Hanger Café offers deli sandwiches, hot soup and a great view of bird-people in action
This entry was posted in Golf & Sports, Insider Tips, Outdoor Adventures and tagged , , , , , , , by Alison. Bookmark the permalink.
Alison

About Alison

I’m a junkie. Addicted to travel. Logged 15 years as Travel Editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune – a labor of love. But always appreciate coming home to my favorite city: San Diego. My newest labor of love is an app – San Diego Essential Guide – a tool that lets me share with other travelers what I love most about my hometown.

How would you describe your ideal San Diego Day?

I’d meet girlfriends at South Mission for a low-tide walk along the ocean front to Pacific Beach. Before heading back, we’d hit a boardwalk restaurant for an eggs Benedict breakfast.  We’d spend the afternoon at La Jolla Shores with our boogie boards – sun and fun in 72-degree-plus waves.  I’d meet my husband for a sunset picnic on a grassy oceanfront bluff at Coast Boulevard Park. We’d end up at Humphreys Backstage Live on Shelter Island, dancing the night away.

If you were invisible, where would you go?

Can’t think of anyplace I wouldn’t want to be seen in San Diego – except maybe Lindbergh Field, if it would help me speed through security and avoid the body scanner.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguini and red wine?

Dad was a commercial fisherman, so I’m spoiled. Give me barely seared ahi, fresh crab or a fish taco.

What’s your favorite San Diego outdoor activity?

Fishing – it’s in my blood. But I’m happy doing anything where I can smell saltwater: paragliding from Torrey Pines, kayaking the La Jolla Ecological Reserve, riding my boogie board, picnicking on the beach, chillin’ at a Summer Pops concert.

Latest music purchases for my iPod/MP3 player?

I’m downloading more apps than music these days. My iPod is full of funky Old School stuff – the best of MJ, Gap Band, Gnarls Barkley, Cameo, Hammer and lots of old Motown sounds: Temptations, Four Tops, The Miracles.

1 thought on “Ultimate Birding Experience: Paragliding Over San Diego

  1. If I had nerves of steel, I definitely will go for this extreme adventure experience. But the mere thought of looking over my feet and being in the air makes me anxious. Although, I guess it would be really different if I was harnessed to something, and paragliding with an instructor makes me rethink my stance.

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